Due to precautions related to COVID-19, we have expanded our options for remote consultations. Please contact our office to discuss whether a full phone consultation or video conference is appropriate for your situation.

The differences between expungement, sealing, and pardons

On Behalf of | Jul 11, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Trying to start fresh with a criminal record is filled with obstacles. Many people wish they could make their past mistakes disappear.

Expungement, sealing and pardons are all possibilities for people looking to clear their criminal records. However, they all have different processes and outcomes, and it’s essential to understand those differences before deciding which option is best.


Expungement allows a person to request that specific criminal records be unavailable through the state’s public online records system. 

Under Kentucky law, certain misdemeanors, class D felonies, non-convictions, dismissed charges, and non-jury indictments are eligible for expungement. Once an offense is expunged, it is treated as though it never occurred and will not appear in a background check. You begin the process by requesting a certificate of eligibility from the Kentucky Court of Justice.


Sealing a criminal record in Kentucky removes it from public view. However, unless it is a juvenile offense, it will appear on criminal background checks by people authorized by the court or law enforcement. 

You must petition the court to have a record sealed. The judge typically will base their decision on whether the request is greater than the need for the public to know.


Only the governor is allowed to grant a pardon. It is a form of forgiveness for a crime and nullifies the punishment and other legal consequences. Some people may request a pardon to fully restore their civil rights, like voting or holding public office. In some cases, an official pardon may result in the expungement of a criminal record. 

When applying for a pardon, the applicant must include details about the conviction, reasons why they believe they should be pardoned, evidence of good behavior, and at least three letters of support.

Deciding which option is best is difficult, and the process can be complex. Therefore, it’s essential that you work with someone who can help you navigate the system.